Towns begin construction of housing production plan

The goal of the multifaceted planning effort is to create a comprehensive strategy to address the Island’s growing housing shortage.

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IHT executive director Philippe Jordi, photographed last year. — Photo by Sam Moore

[Updated to reflect that the meeting scheduled for the Loft in Oak Bluffs has been moved to the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria.]

This week, the six Island towns, using a state grant and funding from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), will begin a four-month study of Island housing needs, beginning with a series of public meetings in each town. The goal is to develop a plan to address the lack of adequate housing stock for low- and moderate-income Island residents and families.

To do that, Island planners have set out to develop a housing production plan (HPP) for each town. The HPP is a statewide initiative developed and funded by the state. This week’s meetings are designed to acquaint town officials and residents with the HPP process.

Each Island town has been tasked with creating its own HPP as a first step in addressing its affordable and workforce housing needs.
Over the course of the three workshops each town will determine the type of housing most needed and where it can be built.

Community workshop consultants RKG Associates, and JM Goldson Community & Planning will facilitate discussions.
When complete, HPPs will require approval from the town’s board of selectmen and planning board. They will then be  submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for approval (DHCD), for potential funding for workforce and affordable housing.  
Housing has been a chronic Island problem. The most recent study, completed by the MVC in 2013, determined that the Island was continuing to lose ground in its effort to provide rental and ownership units for low- and moderate-income residents.

State law, most notably Chapter 40B, allows developers to bypass local zoning restrictions when providing affordable housing in communities where 10 percent or more of the housing units are not designated for low- and moderate-income housing. By being proactive, a community can chart its own course.

While estimates vary by source, the Island currently offers about 6 percent of its housing units for rental or ownership by low- and moderate-income residents. At yearend 2014, for example, income-assisted units listed on the state inventory totaled 411 of 7,953 total housing units, an average of 5.2 percent, according to numbers developed by the MVC.

According to Dukes County Regional Housing Authority executive director David Vigneault, at least 200 applicants are on his agency’s waitlist.

At Morgan Woods in Edgartown, the Island’s largest municipal rental development, the waitlist is currently more than 300 people, manager Maria Lopez said this week.

Peter Temple of Aquinnah, a member of the All-Island Planning Board and a leader in the HPP effort, said he expects results. “This [HPP] process is not a dry plan that will sit on the shelf and gather dust,” he said. “This will get affordable housing built.”

Mr. Temple said the idea for the plan came from a suggestion by Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, following an All-Island Planning Board meeting late last year, after which the MVC offered to help.

The HPP is an attempt by the state to allow communities to begin to catch up to the 10 percent state-mandated affordable housing goal, Mr. Temple said, noting that the HPP planning process also avoids the possibility of developers constructing affordable housing on sites they choose. “The state will help with zoning and bylaw issues, and while not guaranteed, HPP eases the state funding of affordable housing,” he said.

Three meetings to gather input on town needs and to plan for affordable housing will be held in each of the six Island towns beginning Monday, and will continue until mid-December. Towns will receive $15,000 each to complete their HPP work.

An initial round of workshops to explain the HPP process begins on Monday, Sept. 19, in West Tisbury at 4 pm in the Public Safety Building and in Aquinnah at 7 pm in the old town hall (community dinner to follow at 6:30). On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the workshop moves to Edgartown at 5:30 pm in the Menemsha Room in the Harborside Hotel. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the session will be in Oak Bluffs at the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria at 4 pm (a change of venue from the Loft) and at the Chilmark Library at 7 pm, and on Thursday, Sept. 22, the meeting will be held at the Tisbury Senior Center at 6 pm.

Each town has a schedule to develop its own HPP. Aquinnah will hold its HPP sessions on Mondays at 7 pm in the old town hall on Sept. 19, Nov. 14, and Dec. 12. Chilmark HPP planners will meet Wednesdays at 7 pm Sept. 21, Nov. 16, and Dec. 14 at the Chilmark library.

Edgartown HPP planners will meet Tuesdays at 5:30 pm on Sept. 20, Nov. 15, and Dec. 13 in the Menemsha room at the Harborside Hotel. Oak Bluffs planners will meet on Wednesdays, Sept. 21, Nov. 16 and Dec. 14, in the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria. Tisbury meetings are on Thursdays at 6 pm on Sept. 22, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15 at the Tisbury Senior Center. West Tisbury planners will meet on Mondays at 4 pm on Sept. 19, Nov. 14, and Dec. 12 at the public safety building.

More information about HPPs can be found on the State’s website under housing and economic development.